Don’t End Agricultural Subsidies, Fix Them

So say Mark Bittman.

Yet — like so many government programs — what subsidies need is not the ax, but reform that moves them forward. Imagine support designed to encourage a resurgence of small- and medium-size farms producing not corn syrup and animal-feed but food we can touch, see, buy and eat — like apples and carrots — while diminishing handouts to agribusiness and its political cronies.

Farm subsidies were created in an attempt to ameliorate the effects of the Great Depression, which makes it ironic that in an era when more Americans are suffering financially than at any time since, these subsidies are mostly going to those who need them least.


I think Mark misses the problem with subsidies. In his piece, Mark accurately identifies the problems the initial subsidies eventually caused.  Why does he think that will change?  Because they are being “designed” by politicians he likes?  It’s the nature of the beast: handouts create a constituency to expand them at every possible turn.  Subsidies encourage producers to produce what makes sense financially, not what the public wants or needs. Subsidies will always be shifted into not what you want but what politicians and their cronies want. Adding insult to injury is that we, the American people, pay twice.  Once for the subsidy in the form of money that comes out of our taxes, and again at the supermarket in the form of distorted options.  Sometimes we’ll get more of one thing and less of another.

I see commercials on television for ethanol subsidies.  They don’t save energy or the environment, yet this new stream of money continues to flow from taxpayers to producers.

I have a better idea: don’t even try to fix subsidies, end them.


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